How to get up from a fall

Falls are a particular concern for older adults. Every year, one in three Canadian seniors suffers a fall. A can pose a risk to safety, health, and independence of older adults. As we get older, this risk increases. It is not possible to prevent every fall, so getting up from a fall safely is an important skill for all seniors and older adults to be familiar with:

1. Prepare

Getting up from a fall - Step 1

Getting up quickly or the wrong way could make an injury worse. If you are hurt, call for help using a medical alert service or a telephone.

Getting up from a fall - Step 2

Look around for a sturdy piece of furniture or the bottom of a staircase. Don’t try to stand up on your own.

Getting up from a fall - Step 3

Roll over onto your side by turning your head in the direction you are trying to roll, and then move your shoulders, arm, hips, and finally, your leg over.

2. Raise

Getting up from a fall - Step 4

Push your upper body up. Lift your head and pause for a few moments to steady yourself.

Getting up from a fall - Step 5

Slowly get up on your hands and knees and crawl to a sturdy chair.

Getting up from a fall - Step 6

Place your hands on the seat of the chair and slide one foot forward so it is flat on the floor.

3. Sit

Getting up from a fall - Step 7

Keep the other leg bent with your knee on the floor.

Getting up from a fall - Step 8

From this kneeling position, slowly rise and turn your body to sit in the chair.

Getting up from a fall - Step 9

Sit for a few minutes before you try to do anything else.

After a fall

On average, every 22 seconds, a person over the age of 65 will fall.

Most people know that falls result in bruises and broken bones. It is less well known that being unable to get up after a fall can cause further, more serious injury. This is important because it is estimated that about half of the older adults who fall cannot get back up without help. Furthermore, the longer one is down, the greater the risk of medical problems that may have been prevented by getting help quickly.

What problems can result from being down too long after a fall?

A fall causes a person’s full weight to land on a few points of impact, causing immediate soft tissue damage. This injury gradually expands due to swelling which causes increasing pressure. If one gets back up, the pressure is relieved and there is perhaps only soreness and bruising. However, if the injury is such that the person cannot get up – or cannot even roll to take the weight of the body off the injury – the swelling and pressure extend. With the passage of time, the damage extends to any parts of the body that are lying still or are under pressure against hard surfaces.

What exactly happens?

Pressure Ulcers – Unrelieved pressure causes soft tissue to break down from lack of oxygen and essential nutrients, causing what is commonly referred to as “pressure” or “bed sores.” The position of the body after the fall, the struggle to get up and moisture from perspiration or urine can all complicate the situation. If unrelieved, the damage extends to deeper tissues.

Rhabdomyolysis – A medical condition that results when muscle tissue is damaged, releasing proteins into the bloodstream where they don’t belong. The proteins can clog the kidneys and, in severe cases, cause acute kidney failure and the need for dialysis. Dehydration – Dehydration can result if an individual can’t get up after a fall and get drinking water. This, in turn, can lead to many complications, including low blood pressure, confusion, shock, and damage to the brain, kidneys, and other internal organs that need water to function properly.

Aspiration Pneumonia – This serious lung infection results from inhaling fluids, food, or other foreign matter from the mouth or stomach after a fall. Those who are unconscious after a fall are especially susceptible. The presence of pneumonia is likely to complicate recovery from the fall.

Hypothermia – After a fall, lying in one position in a cold room or on a cold floor can reduce the body’s ability to regulate internal temperature. This becomes especially serious when the body’s temperature drops below 95°F (35°C) affecting the functioning of the heart.

Social and psychological consequences

In addition to the physical consequences, being unable to get up causes feelings of helplessness and can trigger a debilitating fear of falling. All of these possible consequences can limit a person’s ability to function and may be prevented by getting help quickly after a fall.

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